Weather: With apologies to Charles Dickens

Being the first part of a ghostly tale of meteorological angst.

McCaskill was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. His funeral had been personally supervised by his partner Ebenezer Fysshe, who, anxious to ensure the best possible turn-out, had arranged it to take place under the optimal anticipated climatic conditions. It belted down with rain, as it turned out, but Fysshe put it down to an unpredictable surge in El Nino bringing moist air from the Atlantic, cooled to precipitation point by the winds caused by an unexpectedly severe anticyclone over Scandinavia.

That sad event of the summer had now all but faded from Ebenezer's memory as he was settling down to sleep after delivering his last forecast before Christmas. Like all good weathermen, he found Christmas a period of great tension. To snow or not to snow, that was the question.

This year, however, had been easier than most. After a cold and blustery start to the month, the snow had disappeared from all but the highest ground in the most northerly areas. The prevailing south-westerlies might bring rain, especially to the west of the country and coastal areas, but the chances of snow were negligible. Or so he had told the nation.

Thus it was with only mild trepidation that Fysshe settled down for a well-earned night's sleep. As always, he glanced at the weather map before turning off the light and saw the reassuring isobars confirming his forecast. Then, with a start, he removed his hand from the light switch and stared again. For Ebenezer had been startled to see in the isobars, without their undergoing any intermediate process of change, the face of his old colleague McCaskill.

McCaskill's face, with a dismal light about it, looking as McCaskill used to look, with ghostly spectacles propped upon ghostly nose. Fysshe viewed this phenomenon with a feeling of horror, yet as he stared, it became a weather map again. He said: "Pooh, pooh," sipped the last dregs of his cocoa and turned off the light.

Yet a strange creaking noise prevented him from sleeping. He sat bolt upright and stared at the point on the wall whence it came. An old, disused barometer was swinging, though no draught was perceptible, nor any other force that might have set it in motion. A clanking sound followed - and then, through the wall, came the apparition, taking the barometer with it.

The same face. The very same. Though Fysshe saw it, he could not believe it. Festooned in charts, thermometers, barometers and umbrellas, this was the face and form of Jacob McCaskill. And he was accompanied by two still more chilling apparitions.

"What do you want with me?" shrieked Fysshe.

"Hello," said the apparition. "Have you met my assistants? They're the forecasters of Christmas past and present."

"Why do you trouble me?" asked Fysshe plaintively.

"I wear the charts I forged in life," said the ghost. "Without the visits from my assistants, you cannot hope to shun the path I tread."

The first assistant then approached Fysshe, saying, in a deathly voice, "I am the forecaster of Christmas Past." The apparition took Ebenezer's hand. A chill moment later, Ebenezer found himself in a television studio of his youth. He covered his eyes with his hand, but the apparition said: "You must look."

Reluctantly Fysshe did as he was bid and saw a young weather forecaster, confidently delivering an endpiece to camera: "A lady just phoned ..." he began.

"No!" shrieked Ebenezer. "Not that! I was so young. This is a nightmare. Set me free!"

"Watch!" commanded the ghost. And Fysshe heard the young forecaster say "... there isn't going to be a hurricane."

Then everything went blank.

The concluding part of this tale will appear tomorrow.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk